Wonder Woman review: The best of the DCEU
I have made no secret that I am not a fan of Zack Snyder’s DCEU murderverse. The two films he directed and the one that he was just listed as a producer (but had heavy influence on) were not good films. Argue all you want about the way Snyder and WB treat their characters for better and worse, but the films just weren’t put together very well.
They were visually muted, the scripts were seriously flawed, and most of the characters were paper thin. Disagree all you want, as a lifelong comic reader I’ve probably spent as much time thinking about this as I did thinking about my work for several college classes. Granted, I could probably make that same argument for a whole, whole lot of things, but I stand by my disdain of the Snyder-influenced DCEU movies and I’m ready to argue about it anytime.
I mean come on. Someone shouts “Martha” and then they fight a super mutant ninja turtle? Hard no.
One of my biggest problems with Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and really all of Snyder’s work is that his characters are always woefully underdeveloped. His supporting characters are nothing more than plot devices and his superheroes are archetypes with no personality. That includes his take on the character of Wonder Woman, who showed up in Snyder’s last movie, did pretty much nothing of interest for the majority of the film other than stealing Batman’s car, and then helped fight the aforementioned Doomsday ninja turtle. She then left without really giving us much of hint at her character.
It turns out that was a good thing, as it gave director Patty Jenkins more or less a clean slate to create a proper origin story. And in that, she absolutely succeeded.
Wonder Woman isn’t just a good superhero movie – easily the best of the DCEU by a huge margin, although that bar is very low – it is a genuinely good movie. There are a few flaws, but overall it is a well-constructed, well shot, and well-cast movie that introduces the character to a new generation of fans and finally, finally gives the DCEU a movie that isn’t crap.
If you are one of the brave internet heroes that have publicly (and usually anonymously) shown concern that this film is designed as a platform for some nefarious feminist agenda where they will enslave men and use them only as breeding stock, good news jackass! There are no secret agendas, just a bad ass female lead that everyone – or at least everyone that doesn’t have severe issues – can appreciate. Wonder Woman doesn’t set out to present a feminist icon. That’s just a side effect.
Following a quick look at the present day Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman (aka Gal Gadot), to remind us that the character now belongs to the modern day (and will next be seen in Justice League), the film flashes back to a young Diana growing up on the protected island of Themyscria, a Hellenistic paradise occupied exclusively by women.
Diana is raised by the Amazons and trained to be the best among them. They are removed from the world, waiting their chance to track down the last Greek god, Ares, and kill him. It’s a good life until a fluke event brings the First World War to the shores of Paradise Island courtesy of a soldier fleeing the Germans, an American pilot named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine).
After learning of the extent of the war, Diana is convinced that it is all due to the machinations of Ares, so she leaves with Trevor, assuming that she will find the God of War on the front lines. Trevor is willing to take her there, as long as it helps him to stop a German general named Ludendorff (Danny Huston) who is planning to launch a final offensive, using a deadly and horrific new gas designed by a masked chemist known as Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya).
Throw in a band of misfit soldiers, an unauthorized mission, and a fish out of water story and you have all the trappings of an Indiana Jones-like action story. It hits all the right notes, with heroic battles and a hero that is willing and capable of destroying the enemy, but who still believes in peace. She is naive enough to be innocent, but strong enough not to let it slow her down.
One place the film does stumble a bit is the depiction of the horrors of war. The First World War was a nightmare. The Second War can at least be hidden under the guise of “good guys vs bad,” but WWI, however, was a bloody butcher’s field between nations trapped by treaties and their own ambitions. There was no overarching nobility to that war, no greater good. It was just blood and mud and death, and ultimately, despite some technological advancements and shifts in government, all it really did was pave the way for the Second World War, which killed even more people.
Wonder Woman tries to hint at this, but it gives it more of a glancing blow than a head-on confrontation. There are a few wounded soldiers scattered about, a child missing his mother, a couple of bodies here and there, but that’s about it. It still fetishes the war to a degree, which is somewhat contradictory to the message of the film. That also steals a bit of the momentum from the finale which feels a bit heavy handed, but not so much as to hurt anything
Overall, Wonder Woman is just a well-made film with characters you will actually care about. It’s kind of bizarre to think that the DCEU film set during one of the absolute worst periods in human history is the first film that manages to avoid being “gritty,” and instead offers a character as close to the original source material as we’ve seen in the DCEU yet.
Wonder Woman review conclusion
It’s nearly impossible to discuss Wonder Woman without comparing it to the other DCEU films, at least a bit. They are designed to be intricately connected, but Wonder Woman stands alone in tone, theme, and style. It also offers a more optimistic outlook on the world, which is deeply ironic given the setting, but it works.
It also offers something that is rare even among the Marvel films – it’s a superhero film that truly captures the larger than life character. She’s represents something more than just a person that can punch harder than most humans – although that is very much present too – she’s a force of good that is personified by a single character, but she manages to retain her humanity – another irony for a character that is essentially a god, but again, it works. Wonder Woman is just a fun adventure movie with a main character that you can enjoy without hesitation. And there’s not a single Martha in the entire film.
Wonder Woman is rated PG-13 with a running time of 141 minutes.